Freezer pops


Photo by Andreae Prozesky

Andreae Prozesky eats the frozen treats.

Ah, the hot, hot days of summer. The lazy, hazy, frizzy-hair-inducing, freckle-enhancing, water-fight-tempting afternoons.  The sleepless, sultry, sweltering nights. They’re coming, friends. Oh, it might be eight degrees and drizzly right now, but just you wait. Things are going to get real warm, real fast.

Or, at least, real warmish.

This is St. John’s, after all.

When the weather gets warmish, there’s nothing better than something coolish. A nice summery beer helps matters, or a fruity daiquiri, or a shivery vodka tonic. But just say you’re not up for drinks. Say you’re not a drinker. Perhaps you’re in a whale-like state of pregnancy, or you’re a mere child, or it’s only ten in the morning. What then?

Bring on the freezer pops. Frozen treats, freezie pops, whatever you want to call them. You can truck up to the shop and grab a Popsicle, a Fudgestick, a Creamsicle or a Rocket, sure, but it’s not hard to make your own. The hardest part, at least at this time of year, is finding a flippin’ freezer pop mold to make them in.

After much searching, I ended up using the plastic cups from single-serving pudding packs (and forcing a good friend to scarf much dodgy, shelf-stable pudding in the process). I happen to have about 500 wooden stir sticks that I bought on a whim for my daughter’s craft-supply stash. If you aren’t so very lucky, you can pick them up cheap at the grocery or dollar store, or amass them from coffee shops (although those skinny Starbucks ones won’t do you much good).

The simplest thing to do is just to fill the molds with fruit juice or Kool-Aid and call it a day. Simple, refreshing, beautiful. On a really hot day (the kind we seldom get here) you can get a lot of mileage out of freezer pops made of… water. As in tap water. Like out-of-season icicles. If you freeze some edible flowers or some herbs in there (mint is the freshest of the fresh, although lemon balm is pretty refreshing, too), you’ll feel as though you’re wielding some kind of magic wand. If it sounds silly to you now, just write “make tap water ice pops” in your planner for some time in the middle of August, and trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Should your tastes lean toward the creamy, highly textured frozen treat, things get a little more complex. What you’ll need is some kind of, well, cream. Yogurt is a good base, as is coconut milk. Just freezing milk won’t do it; milk separates when you freeze it, and that’s not really so delightful. If you’re a non-dairy type, I would suggest using a rice or almond milk and coconut milk combo. And if you’re using yogurt, you should know by now that I’m positively evangelical about using the full-fat, unflavoured, unsweetened variety, especially if kids are going to be eating it. Please, please, please don’t let children consume artificial sweeteners unless a team of trusted health care professionals has told you to. Thank you.) The yogurt will add a nice body to your freezer pops, a certain oomphiness that juice just doesn’t have.

Fruit purée, especially if it’s on the chunky side, will make things interesting. You will find that puréed fruit doesn’t freeze to the same shard-like iciness that juice does. As fruit purée thaws it turns more to mush than to drips, because there’s all that fibre and such holding it together. It’s got structural integrity, seeds and strands and all. Something starchy helps, too. Cornstarch will mean that your freezie mixture has to be cooked very lightly. Banana means you have to flick on the blender for a few seconds.

If you want your freezer pops to be sweet, some kind of liquid sweetener is the best way to go, because it won’t go too crystally on you. Corn syrup works great, as does maple syrup. There are very few circumstances under which I endorse the use of corn syrup, because it’s absolute junk for your system, but hell, it’s summer time, go nuts.

And speaking of nuts, there’s nothing to stop you from unmolding your frozen treats and rolling them in chopped nuts. Or in melted chocolate and then in chopped nuts. You just have to act fast and make sure to stick them back in the freezer, on a tray, to solidify for a few minutes before you eat them.
Obviously, you can freeze any combination of juice, fruit, yogurt, whatever. Here are the ones that I tested in the Food Nerd Laboratory. Oh, and since my ersatz molds each had a ½ cup capacity, I did the math and made 2 cups, or 4 pops, worth of each recipe.

Smoothie pops
Into your blender chuck one ripe banana, some yogurt or coconut milk, some fruit juice and fruit of your choice. You might need a little honey. Fill molds and freeze. For the raspberry-coconut pops I made, I used a banana-coconut milk-orange juice-raspberry jam combo.

Yogurt swirl pops
Self-explanatory, really. Sweeten some plain yogurt with a bit of maple syrup, then swirl some fruit preserves through to go all pretty and marbled. I used Astro Balkan yogurt and some blueberry-cherry jam.

Two-tone pops
Fill molds ¼ way up with juice of your choice, then stick them in the freezer. Blend a matching fruit with some juice and a banana, then top up the molds and return them to the freezer. I used fancy peach-clementine juice, then whizzed a tin of peaches (juice and all) with the banana for the rest.

Fudge pops (omg delicious)
In a small saucepan, combine 1/8 cup cornstarch and a dash of salt with 1 ½ cups milk. Stir in ¼ cup light corn syrup and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Heat through, stirring, until it thickens up like pudding. Stir in ½ cup chocolate chips. If you only stir them in halfway you get a cool swirly effect. Pour into molds and freeze.

Send your questions, comments, and sweet, delicious, frozen suggestions to dreae@thescope.ca